The prominent scientist Francis Collins, director of the NIH, co-discoverer of the cystic fibrosis gene and head of the government effort that mapped the human genome is an Evangelical Christian who claims there is no conflict between religion and science:
“God can be found in the cathedral or the laboratory.”
I feature Dr. Collins and two other prominent Christian scientists (Ken Miller and Theodosius Dobzhansky) in my special Evolution lecture given in my Introductory Psychology courses every semester. Psychology textbooks refer to evolution regularly in explaining human behavior and I provide my students detailed information on evolution that most have never, ever, heard since many Christians in America do not share Dr. Collins conciliatory view of science and religion and make it very difficult to teach much “Evilution” in our high schools. Poll after poll show nearly half of the US population denies evolution (and now some other modern scientific findings like the Big Bang) thanks to the well-funded efforts of conservative Christians.
Sounds like a mighty big conflict of religion versus science to me. I show my students that denial of evolution is absurd given the oceans of data that we have and is continuing to accumulate exponentially with every passing day. I use Dr. Collins and the others as examples of devout Christians who are accomplished scientists who staunchly defend evolution.
Collins has even had his own website “BioLogos” for some time now which attempts to convince Evangelical Christians their religion must be interpreted in terms of modern science… tacitly acknowledging there is an undeniable clash of religious and science claims; else he wouldn’t need the website at all!
The only way to reconcile the inescapable conflict of religion and science is for religious ideas to yield to new knowledge. Religious claims are proven wrong by science, never the other way around. It has been going on for centuries (think Copernicus, Galileo, and others) and is now accelerating rapidly due to the incredible advance of science in the modern age.
For example, Collins’ BioLogos website unequivocally supports the very new and damning genetic evidence that humans could not have evolved from only two people: the Adam and Eve story is metaphor at best, myth at worst. Modern human populations are descended from thousands of individuals, not two, and 10’s of thousands of years ago, not 6. As a non-theist I wholeheartedly applaud Dr. Collins efforts and admire him greatly as a scientist and have no issue with his rather deistic perspectives on God that one gets from reading his interviews or his book “Language of God”. If you believe that there must have been a Creator being, that some agent must have started it all, go for it, enjoy.
Collins also believes in miracles although readily admits they haven’t happened in his lifetime and are most likely incredibly rare if they happen at all. More tellingly, as an accomplished, practicing scientist he knows miracles do not, have never, figured in the pursuit of knowledge anywhere, anytime.
God is not found in the lab: he can’t get in.
No matter how devout a scientist may be and I don’t doubt Dr. Collins’ sincerity one bit, he doesn’t expect prayers to be answered in his lab. He didn’t hope for miracles to make the cystic fibrosis gene magically appear one day beside a burning bush, he didn’t expect to beat the private attempt to map the human genome by having the 3 billion base pair sequence handed down to him inscribed on stone tablets. He knows the world doesn’t work that way.
Just what is so special about the few hundred square feet that make up a scientist’s lab that God never seems to have any influence inside it? I mean think about it. If you are a religious scientist, let’s take a Xian for example like Francis Collins, you believe in an all-powerful, omniscient god who made the entire universe and everything in it… no small feat!!! And you pray to him for some kind of intercession on matters of life and death, ill-health usually, hoping he will somehow intervene.
So why is it you won’t pray for him to make your experiment turn out? Why do you tacitly admit by not praying in the lab, never expecting or pursuing any sort of miracle in science, that god is NOT omnipotent, but wholly impotent… but just inside your lab? How arbitrary and ridiculous is that? What if you move to another lab, or expand yours… suddenly your god is locked out of an even bigger and wholly arbitrary chunk of the world that he fucking created?
Suppose for example your lab is scheduled to take over office space on the floor below from a Xian charity organization that is moving out to better digs in the mega-church complex down the street (a not unlikely scenario). All the existing office staff in the charity organization begins their day with a prayer as part of their daily routine and many feel strongly that on occasion their prayers are surely answered. God is found throughout the entire floor and makes his presence known answering a prayer now and then for the faithful in residence. So they move out and the genetics lab moves in and god moves out with them. No miracle, no randomly answered prayers, no evidence of gods interaction to be found ever again…
Or in any lab anywhere, in any time… and what if you have to do fieldwork?
I’m fond of saying the Arrogance of Religious Thought™ knows no bounds, but the Absurdity of Religious Thought™ knows none either and I could get enamored of that phrase real quick as well!
No conflict between science and religion you say?
As a scientist Dr. Collins knows:
The earth isn’t the center of the solar system,
Adam and Eve is a metaphor,
Females do not issue from males ribs,
Evolution happened: not Noah or the Flood,
There were never giants in the human race,
The earth is 4.3 billion years old: not 6 or 10 thousand,
Human longevity was never hundreds of years,
Female humans don’t have offspring in their nineties,
Language evolution is well documented without a Tower of Babel,
AND if someone hears voices in their head to slay their son with a knife for a burnt offering, they need medication, and quickly.
Francis Collins and Science, 10: Bible, 0… and we aren’t even out of Genesis yet!
And remember, this man considers himself an Evangelical Xian, and yet even HE has to throw out so much of his very own precious Bible!
That’s how the conflict is settled; religious claims are reinterpreted or rejected outright.
Information Kills Religion.™